Pool plan nose divesIf the Minnesota Department of Health has its way, Cloquet’s next pool will be created sans sand. Cloquet city administrators had been waiting for the Minnesota Department of Health to weigh in on particulars regarding their jurisdiction, if any, over sand-bottom pools. What they received in a letter dated Dec. 3, however, took them by surprise.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
If the Minnesota Department of Health has its way, Cloquet’s next pool will be created sans sand.
Cloquet city administrators had been waiting for the Minnesota Department of Health to weigh in on particulars regarding their jurisdiction, if any, over sand-bottom pools. What they received in a letter dated Dec. 3, however, took them by surprise.
The letter, from Colleen Paulus, a manager in the Environmental Health Services Section, states that only the concrete pool option would be supported by the state.
It further states the city’s additional concepts under consideration, including a pool with a sand bottom and a pool hybrid of sand and concrete, would not meet code requirements in many areas and would, in effect, violate the current state pool code.
The city’s understanding was that the state did not have full jurisdiction over sand bottom facilities, according to Brian Fritsinger, Cloquet city administrator.
“We were all very surprised by what was in the letter,” Fritsinger said. “That this apparent change of position comes after two years of very difficult and challenging community discussions about the concepts is very disconcerting.”
Perhaps the biggest point of contention lies in whether replacing an existing swim pond liner would be considered restoration or new construction.
It was the city’s understanding that replacing a liner and restoring the sand-bottom pond would be allowed. This understanding was reinforced by the similar understanding of their consultants at U.S. Aquatics, who have worked on similar sand-bottom facilities throughout the state.
In the past 11 years, six sand-based facilities have undergone major structural improvements including liner replacement, with the most recent one in Warroad, Minn., in 2005.
“Even with liner replacement taking place ... the state did not prohibit these projects,” Fritsinger said.
Paulus claims that under current practice, when any pool replaces the bottom or shell, it is considered new construction and that replacement of the liner is effectively allowing construction of a new swim pond, which is prohibited by state statute.
She also claims it was the intent of the State Legislature and code authors in 1994 and 1987 that the eight existing swim ponds in the state would sunset themselves out of use with the decay of time and eventual structural or mechanical failure.
Fritsinger sent a letter to Paulus last Friday asking for clarification on several points including the “grandfathering” point in particular, stating, “While on the surface this statement might make logical sense ... there has been, to the best of my knowledge, no direct communication with Cloquet or specific rules cited by your department in correspondence to the city during this 20-year timeframe actually stating our facility was being grandfathered in until such time it needed major repair.”
Fritsinger spoke with Paulus briefly on Wednesday and said she and her staff had not yet reviewed his letter. She told Fritsinger she has directed her staff to try and answer his questions by Jan. 1.
“Their letter has really left our community in a difficult position,” Fritsinger said. “The city surely would not have gone through the expense and time [taken with sand concepts] had the state been forthright with this opinion two years ago.”